Press conference following the 8th session
The press conference was held in the Press Conference Hall of the Presidency of BiH building in Sarajevo beginning at 11.00.
Amra Hadžimuhamedović, Commission Chair, informed journalists of the Commission's resolutions
Twentytwo decisions were adopted to designate the following properties as national monuments:
· The architectural ensemble of the church of St John in Podmilačje, Jajce municipality, FBiH
· The movable cultural property of a fragment of a stone Japodi urn with the figure of a Japodi horsemen from the village of Založje, Bihać municipality, FBiH
· The movable cultural property of the slab forming the right-hand side of the Japodi stone urn from the village of Golubić, Bihać municipality, FBiH
· The movable property of the Plaque of Grand Judge Gradeša, the property of the Museum of Zenica Town, FBiH
· The archaeological site of Korića Han in Gračanica, FBiH
· The archaeological site of Stećak in Baljvine, Mrkonjić Grad municipality, RS
· The architectural ensemble of the Old Town of Ključ in Ključ, FBiH
· The archaeological site of Ripač near Bihać, FBiH
· The architectural ensemble of the Old Town of Soko in Sokol, Gračanica municipality, FBiH
· The architectural ensemble of the old Soko mosque in Sokol, Gračanica municipality, FBiH
· The historic building of the Clock Tower in Gračanica, FBiH
· The site and remains of the architectural ensemble of the Atik mosque (Old mosque, Sultan Sulayman’s mosque), harem and turbe in Bijeljina, RS
· The architectural ensemble of the Town mosque and graveyard in Velika Kladuša, FBiH
· The site and remains of the historic building of the Clock Tower in Banja Luka, RS
· The site and remains of the architectural ensemble of the Ferhad paša mosque (Ferhadija) in Banja Luka, the Ferhad paša turbe, the Safi-kaduna turbe, the turbe of Ferhad paša's bajraktars, the fountain, the mosque graveyard and surrounding walls, and the portico, Banja Luka, RS
· The site and remains of the architectural ensemble of the Town Mosque in Derventa, RS
· The site and remains of the architectural ensemble of the Dolnjačka mosque in Derventa, RS
· The architectural ensemble of the Šarić house (Branko Šotra Gallery) in Stolac, with permanent museum exhibition, FBiH
· The architectural ensemble of the Čaršija mosque and Čaršija in Stolac, FBiH
· The historic monument of the Šeranić house in Banja Luka, RS
· The site and remains of the architectural ensemble of the Halil-paša turbe and harem in Banja Luka, RS
· The site and remains of the architectural ensemble of Gazanferija mosque in Banja Luka, RS
She pointed out that by decision of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina the Commission was authorized to implement foreign donations made to the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina for the protection of national monuments. At the 8th session a resolution had been adopted and the Commission's responsibility for determining the rules for the implementation of such funds had been confirmed.
She referred to the case of the Kozarac fortress, which had not been under protection before the war, and pointed out that it was now a national monument, making it clear to the Republika Srpska authorities and the municipal authorities in Prijedor that they must undertake all the financial, technical and scientific measures needed to preserve the remains of the fortress and tower in Kozarac.
Another case was that of the Čaršija mosque in Prijedor. At its 7th session, the Commission had issued a Decision to declare the site and remains of the Čaršija mosque a National Monument. During the visit by Commission members to Prijedor municipality, representatives of the Islamic Community had tried to exert pressure on the Commission members to alter their decision. During the procedure to declare this mosque a national monument, the Commission had acted in accordance with the law and criteria. It was the responsibility of the Entity authorities and the owners of the property to restore as it was prior to demolition. The Islamic Community intended to erect a building on the site that was inappropriate both in appearance and dimensions to the cultural landscape of Bosnia and Herzegovina and constituted a further assault on cultural memory in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Commission would operate solely in accordance with the Law, Annex 8 to the General Framework Agreement for Peace in BiH and the Criteria for designating national monuments, and would not bow to pressure under any circumstances.
During the visit to Bihać municipality the Commission had ascertained that illegal works were being carried out on the site of the Fethija mosque, against the wishes of the municipal authorities. This was one of the most significant buildings in BiH, dating from the early fourteenth century and converted into a mosque in 1592, which had retained until its most recent alterations the complexity of all the different periods and interior religious content. The Commission was determined to take all legal means to prevent the devastation of this important monument, including criminal charges against the perpetrators of the offence of damaging a national monument. There was a similar situation on the archaeological site of Petkovica in Zavala, where there were the remains of two mediaeval churches with a burial ground with stećci, Orthodox and Catholic tombstones between them. The local Catholic priest, with the backing of the Catholic Church, was carrying out building works on the site, a road had been cut and preparatory works were under way to build a new church on the foundations of St Peter's church. The Commission would demand that all legal means be taken to prevent the devastation of this archaeological site, and had therefore requested an urgent meeting with the Papal Nuncio in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Reis ul ulema of BiH as well as with representatives of the Orthodox Church and Jewish Community. It was crucially important that the owners of monuments be responsible for preserving them.
The Chair also informed journalists that the Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina had fulfilled its obligations deriving from Annex 8. Back in 2001 the Government had drafted the preliminary framework for the adoption of harmonized laws in BiH and had set aside budget funds for the reconstruction, rehabilitation, conservation and restoration of buildings declared to be national monuments. Detailed information about the strategic approach of the Government of FBiH to the implementation of Annex 8 had been published in the Official Gazette of the Federation of BiH no. 13/03. For 2003, the Government of FBiH had allocated funds of 2,000,000 KM to be used to draft documentation and carry out technical measures to protect properties designated as national monuments. In addition, for 2003 the Government of FBiH had allocated funds of 1,000,000 KM for the architectural ensemble of Počitelj.
Specifically relating to the 8th session, the Chair underlined the fact that the Commission had issued a decision to declare the reconstructed church of St John in Podmilačje and the rehabilitated Čaršija mosque and Čaršija in Stolac as national monuments. The church of St John in Podmilačje had been restored to its late 19th century condition it was in prior to the changes made in the early 20th century, and the Čaršija mosque and the Čaršija in Stolac was the first rehabilitated monument tol be restored to the condition it was in prior to the recent war.
Dubravko Lovrenović drew attention to systematic attempts to eradicate the cultural landscape of Bosnia and Herzegovina and to the need for religious communities to do far more to prevent this from happening. He cited as a positive example Sanski Most municipality, where there is considerable public awareness of the need to preserve monuments and protect the natural environment. In Sanski Most a Steering Committee had been set up which should lead to the formation of a Society to Protect Cultural, Historical and Natural Sites, which the Commission fully supported, since cooperation between State and local institutions was important for the protection of the cultural, historical and natural heritage of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Zeynep Ahunbay spoke of the shocking impression made on Commission members in Prijedor, Novi Grad and Bihać. It was important to teach the public and religious communities that the cultural heritage has a historical and an aesthetic dimension and that no interventions must be made without the assistance of experts in this field. Religious buildings teach us both history and cultural tradition, and we must preserve them as far as possible in their original form; they must not be altered for short-term functional needs. In Bihać it was clear that representatives of the majlis had demolished the gallery in the Fethija mosque and were trying to build a new one to suit their needs. They had dug up the floor and laid new foundations without conducting any archaeological investigations, and it was possible that this had caused the loss of archaeological finds. She said it was to be hoped this would be the last time that a historic monument was damaged and that the law would be upheld in future.
Commission representatives answered journalists' questions on the general state of national monuments in Bosnia and Herzegovina (the international community had praised the Commission's work in implementing Annex 8 and peace in BiH, and thanks to the media, too, awareness of the importance of protecting the cultural and historical heritage was altering. There was advance notification of international donations based on the Commission's work, and the European Union and the Council of Europe were going to put the rehabilitation of the destroyed or damaged heritage on their list of priorities for the coming period); on action taken by the Government of Republika Srpska to protect the heritage (the RS Government has not allocated budget funds for the protection of monuments; the Law on the protection of cultural properties in RS is contrary to Annex 8 as regards evaluating monuments, but the Law on the Implementation of the Decisions of the Commission has rendered those provisions null and void so that national monuments enjoy the highest level of protection in Republika Srpska; the RS Government is taking no financial steps, but there is proper cooperation and an on-going agreement between the Commission and the Ministry of Regional Planning, Civil Engineering and the Environment of RS); on tombstones on the site of the Atik mosque in Bijeljina (the tombstones, as movable heritage items, have also been declared as a national monument as part of the Decision declaring this mosque a national monument, and it is the responsibility of the Entity authorities and the owner of the property adequately to conserve and protect this part of the ensemble as well and to ensure that it is on public display. Pursuant to the Decision of the Commission, the Atik mosque will be rehabilitated in its original form and dimensions, on the site where it previously stood, with the possibility of using new materials as similar as possible in nature to the original materials); the adoption of decisions to declare properties as national monuments and endangered monuments in the Tuzla area (the Commission has so far adopted no decisions for this area).